The “Capricious” relationship between France and Quebec

In partnership with RetroNews, the press site of the National Library of France, The duty lance a series that goes back to the media sources of the France-Quebec relationship, from the War of the Conquest to the visit of General de Gaulle, including the tour of Sarah Bernhardt on the banks of the St. Lawrence. Second text.

On July 13, 1855, the citizens of Quebec elbow on the quays of the lower town. Their eyes are turned towards the Saint-Laurent river where they perceive, in the distance, the slender silhouette of The Capricious, a majestic sailboat … towed by a steamer. The crowd is feverish at the sight of the tricolor flag. This is the first French warship to anchor in Quebec waters since the British conquest in 1760.

The enthusiasm of the former subjects of Louis XV is reported in The Journal of Quebec, a sheet without filiation with the current daily newspaper of the same name. It is from this unique source that in France the Journal of political and literary debates to spread the news in the empire of Napoleon III, with a formidable delay of 26 days:

« The Capricious arrived at us yesterday at six o’clock in the evening. […] She saluted the citadel flag with twenty-one cannon shots, which were returned to her immediately. The moved crowd which was stationed on the Saint-Louis terrace, on the quays and on all the points from which the ship could be seen, made hear on seeing it the warmest cheers. “

It is a good circumstantial understanding which allows a French ship to go up the river. The French and British armies are fighting Russia together on the Crimea side; many of Canada’s colonials are in fact fighting. It is therefore in the tragic shadow of war that The Capricious, in America, can reach in peace the former capital of New France. In Quebec, the balconies are decked out for the occasion with tricolor banners andUnion Jacks.

The mayor of Quebec, the Scottish Joseph Morrin, made his way through the crowd to board the corvette armed with 32 guns. He was received by Paul-Henry de Belvèze, whose high-sounding title of “commander of the French forces in Newfoundland waters” basically indicates that France no longer reigns in North America except over the modest archipelago of Saint- Pierre-et-Miquelon. The two men fraternize for a moment, exchange civilities, then take their places in a horse-drawn carriage which takes them to the upper town. Their horse-drawn vehicle takes the mountain coast. Along the way, anyone taking this steep road can still spot the remains of the former Parliament of United Canada. The vast colonnaded building was destroyed by fire the year before, along with part of its valuable library.

” The mayor […] and M. de Belvèze rode together […] solemnly proceeding, in the midst of an enthusiastic crowd, to the Government House, where the Governor General was waiting for him with his council and a brilliant staff, and while the most cordial words of welcome were exchanged, the military music, played national tunes at the door of the hotel. “

Brothers of America

A second shipment of “news from our brothers in America” ​​reached Paris via a transatlantic liner. The account of the events is reported, in the form of letters, written by the Canadian Joseph-Guillaume Barthes, a thunderous and colorful character whose most famous work, Canada reconquered by France, advocates the resumption of French influence in the St. Lawrence Valley. These letters from Barthes appear in The Gazette of France August 19. They bear witness to the hopes of a forgotten people – and of its author, above all – whose relationship to the world appears to be upset by the passage of The Capricious :

“What will come of this, we ask ourselves everywhere with a kind of feverish anxiety that participates in hope and astonishment? If the Capricious was going to bring us a French consul! Some hope, others affirm that this is the first step towards the reestablishment of these close relations between France of the Old and that of the New World. “

Barthes expresses his confidence in the future, after having launched a new appeal for the colonization of the Saguenay valley by the subjects of Napoleon III: “I therefore promise myself the happiest results of the entry of the Capricious in the roadstead of Quebec, and once again it seems to me that Providence is directing things in such a way as to open all eyes to the future of our relations with our former mother country. I therefore abandon the fate of my forecasts to pressing events. “

The highlight of the tour The Capricious occurs on July 18, 1855, when his crew takes part in the inauguration of the Column of the Braves. This monument pays homage to the soldiers who fell in the battle of Sainte-Foy, won by the French army in Canada in 1760, on the same battlefield where General Montcalm was defeated by Wolfe in 1759. The event is reported in The Gazette of France August 20:

“The first stone of the Sainte-Foy monument must have been placed some time ago. As soon as we knew the arrival of the Capricious, the ceremony was adjourned. It took place yesterday, chaired by the Governor General, who laid the foundation stone. An immense procession moved towards the plain; one saw there mixed up the English soldier, with his company of musicians, the sailors of the French corvette with the picturesque costume, carrying the weapons of the combat at sea, the rifle and the cutlass, further, the Hurons of Lorette in toilet of war, the skin nuanced with multicolored hues, simulating the savage aspect of the warriors of another time. “

The monument will ultimately be capped by a statue of Bellona donated in 1862 by the liberal cousin of Napoleon III, Prince Jérôme-Napoleon. Good society is not going to be prayed for to gather around the customary social events. Informed by the newspaper The country that the projected monument must honor the soldiers of the two armies, the eminence grise of the reds, Louis-Joseph Papineau, declined the invitation.

The Gazette of France ends his story of the tour of The Capricious with another letter from Barthes. It appears on November 23:

“Our readers will see with interest the following letter which we receive from our honorable friend M. Barthes, and which again informs us of the strong hopes that the mission of M. de Belvèze, commander of the corvette The Capricious, awakened in these French populations. Our transatlantic compatriots cannot believe that this mission, welcomed by them with such unanimous transport, does not have important results, if only that of leading the French government to promote more extensive commercial relations between the two countries, and to establish consular agents in these regions. “

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